Should I take cortisone shots to relieve the pain?
Suffering from arthritis, tennis elbow or carpal tunnel and need pain relief? Have you considered a cortisone shot? According to the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine, injectable cortisone can provide significant pain relief and allow for an earlier return to activity. Cortisone injections are completely legal and different from the illegal anabolic steroids used to increase athletic strength and speed.
What you should know before receiving a cortisone shot
“Cortisone is not a pain-relieving medication, explains Dr. Surbhi Panchal, an independent orthopedic surgeon on staff at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill.
“It works by minimizing the body’s reaction to inflammation. With many patients, we utilize ultrasound to target the area of pain before injecting the patient with cortisone. By injecting the medicine directly into the inflamed area, such as a wrist or shoulder joint, high concentrations of cortisone can be administered with minimal side effects,” he says.
If cortisone injections are used, they must be combined with the appropriate rest period and rehabilitation to gain the best results. According to Panchal, medical professionals are often hesitant to use these injections routinely for injury treatment as they may turn off the body’s “alarm system.” Many times a more advanced diagnostic test is needed to more accurately pinpoint the injury.
Possible side effects
As with nearly any procedure where medications are injected into the body, adverse reactions may occur. The so-called “cortisone flare” reaction has been reported to occur in approximately 2 percent of patients. This occurs when the injected cortisone crystallizes and causes pain worse than before the shot. Fortunately, these flares usually do not last long and can be eased within 12 to 48 hours by icing the area.
Additional side effects include softening of cartilage and weakening of tendons at the injection site. To be on the safe side, Dr. Panchal recommends having injections at least three months apart and avoiding repeat injections within a short time period.
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